Traditional Cabbage Salad with Ham

Sometimes coleslaw with its typical sugary, mayonnaise-based dressing can seem like a bit much. I recently came a hundred-year-old dressing for Cabbage Salad with Ham that calls for simply dressing it with warm vinegar. The simplicity of the dressing really brings out the flavor of this salad.

Here is the original recipe:

cabbage salad with ham in bowl
Source: The Old Reliable Farm and Home Cook Book (1919)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cabbage Salad with Ham

  • Servings: 4 - 5 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 quart (4 cups) cabbage, grated (about 1 medium cabbage)

1 medium onion, finely minced

1/4 cup ham, diced

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine grated cabbage and minced onion in a bowl. Set aside

Sauté diced ham in a skillet using medium heat until lightly browned. Stir in vinegar, salt, and pepper; heat until hot. Pour heated vinegar over cabbage and onion; stir to combine. Serve.

Old-fashioned Almond Strips (Almond Pastry Bars)

Almond strips (pastry bars) on plate

When I make a pie, I sprinkle any remaining pastry scraps with cinnamon and sugar, and then bake until light browned. These scraps are good, but I found a hundred-year-old recipe for Almond Strips that takes it to the next level.

Almond Strips are bars of baked pastry dough topped with cinnamon, sugar, and almond slices. These bars are a great way to use those pastry scraps – yet are so pretty and tasty that they can be served without apology.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Almond Strips
Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Almond Strips

  • Servings: approx. 6 bars
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup almond slices

pie pastry for a 1-shell pie (or use scraps of pastry dough left-over after making a pie crust)

1 egg white

Put sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir to combine. Then add almond slices; stir. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425° F. Roll pie pastry into a rectangle 1/4-inch thick. Cut into strips 2 inches X 4 inches. Place strips on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon/almond mixture. Make sure the sugar and almonds are distributed evenly across the bars. Press lightly.  Bake for approximately 10 -15 minutes (or until lightly browned).

Old-fashioned Baked Apple Roll

Baked apple roll in baking dish

Fall is the season for apples, and the perfect time to make apple desserts. I recently found a lovely hundred-year-old recipe for Baked Apple Roll; however, it has one quirky characteristic. The recipe does not call for any cinnamon.

The Baked Apple Roll is smothered in a very simple sugar, water, and butter sauce. The roll looked beautiful, but (since I’m so used to apple dishes being spiced with cinnamon), the roll tasted bland to me. If I made this recipe again, I might add some cinnamon – though I recognize that wouldn’t hold true to the old recipe.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for baked apple roll
Source: The Old Reliable Farm and Home Cook Book (1919)

When I made the recipe, I halved it, and still had a large roll that made 4-5 servings. Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks.

Baked Apple Roll

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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slice of baked apple roll in dish

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon butter (softened) + 1/4 cup butter

1 cup milk

3 cups chopped apples (about 2-3 large apples) (peel and core before chopping)

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 325° F. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 tablespoon butter. Add milk, and mix using a fork until dough starts to cling together. If it is excessively sticky, add additional flour. Turn onto a well-floured prepared surface, and roll dough into an approximate 11-inch square that is 1/4 inch thick. Evenly spread chopped apples on the rolled dough to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Start at one side and roll. Seal edges by pressing together to help prevent the juice from running out. Place in an oblong baking dish (approximately 7 inches by 12 inches or larger) with the “seam” at the top.

In a bowl, combine the sugar and water. Carefully pour the sugar mixture into the edge of the baking dish. Do not pour it over the top of the roll. Cut the 1/4 cup butter into small pieces, then “dot” the sugar/water mixture with the butter pieces. This will turn into a syrup as it cooks. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and baste the roll with the hot sugar syrup. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. The roll can be cut into slices, and served hot or cold with the syrup drizzled around the slices.

    Unbaked apple roll in baking dish with sugar, water, and pats of butter

Old-fashioned Cauliflower with Onion Sauce

cauliflower with onion sauce in green bowl

Cauliflower is a delightful fall vegetable, so I was pleased when I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Cauliflower with Onion Sauce. This dish contains cauliflower florets smothered with a rich and creamy sauce made with cream and onion puree. It is then topped with lightly toasted bread cubes.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Cauliflower with Onion Sauce
Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

Making the sauteed bread cubes brought back warm memories of my mother in law. She often sauteed bread cubes to lightly toast them when making a topping for casseroles or other dishes. I generally go the easier route when making a bread topping, and use fine bread crumbs and skip sauteing them. But I really liked the larger sauteed bread cubes in this dish, and may have to make them again to top other dishes.

I couldn’t bring myself to use Crisco when I sauteed the bread cubes and instead used butter.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cauliflower

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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2 large onions

1 cup cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 egg yolk, beaten

1 head cauliflower

1 slice bread

1 teaspoon butter

Onion Sauce

Remove outer layer from onions, slice and place in a saucepan. Cover with water, and using high heat bring to a boil.  Reduce and cook until tender about 15 minutes. Drain, then press through a sieve or puree (I used a Foley mill.) Combine onion puree, cream , salt, pepper, and egg yolk in a saucepan. Using medium heat, heat until the sauce thickens and is on the verge of boiling. Remove from heat.

Cauliflower

Cut the florets from the head of cauliflower. Place in a saucepan, and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until tender (about 8 -10 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

Bread Cubes

Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes. Melt butter in small skillet using medium heat, add bread crumbs. Gently stir occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from heat.

To Serve

Place cauliflower in serving dish. Pour onion sauce over the cauliflower, then sprinkle with sauteed bread crumbs.

Bianca-Style Leeks

creamed leeks in dish

Leeks are a delightful, often under-utilized vegetable, so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Bianca-Style Leeks I knew that I had to give it a try.  The mild onion-like flavor of the leeks was accentuated by a delicate chicken broth and cream sauce. This recipe is easy to make, and very tasty. The leeks make a wonderful side dish, and are delightful with beef or pork.

Recipe for Bianca-Style Leeks
Source: Recipes for Everyday by Janet McKenzie Hill (1919)

When I made this recipe, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks needed to be soaked in cold water for half an hour so I skipped that step. I also didn’t cook the leeks as long as called for in the old recipe. A half hour seemed excessive; they were tender after about 15 minutes.  I substituted butter for the Crisco, and made the sauce in a separate pan and then added the leeks – it just seemed easier.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Bianca-style Leeks

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 bunches leeks (about 4 pounds)

water

1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup half and half

Clean and trim the leeks. Cut crosswise the white and light green parts of the leeks into 2-inch pieces.  Place in a saucepan and cover with water; add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

In the meantime, in another pan, using medium heat, melt butter; then stir in the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually, add the chicken broth and half and half while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the white sauce thickens. Add cooked leeks and reheat until the sauce is hot and bubbly while occasionally stirring very gently. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Old-fashioned Scalloped Eggplant

scalloped eggplant in casserole dish

Last week the eggplants at the farmers’ market just seemed to call me. Their beautiful deep purple color, and smooth curves made them aesthetically pleasing. I also knew that eggplants are known for their versatility because they have little flavor of their own, but rather absorb the flavors of the foods and spices that they are cooked with.

Once I had purchased an eggplant, I had a new challenge – finding a hundred-year-old recipe that called for eggplant.

After browsing through old magazines and cookbooks, I think that I found a winner. Scalloped Eggplant is made by slicing eggplant, then layering it in a casserole dish with grated cheese, and smothering with tomato sauce. It is then baked in the oven until the eggplant is tender.

The Scalloped Eggplant was delicious, and can be served as either a meatless main dish or a hearty side dish.

Here’s the original recipe:

recipe for scalloped eggplant
Source: American Cookery (October, 1919)

Today eggplant is generally written as one word, but that has not always been the case. Based on the way it was written in this recipe, it was two words a hundred years ago.

I used cheddar cheese when I made this recipe. And, I didn’t sprinkle the layers in the casserole dish with salt because I had previously soaked the eggplant in salt water. There is also salt in the cheese and tomato sauce. Sometimes I think that people in 1919 liked saltier foods than what we do today.

Scalloped Eggplant

  • Servings: 3-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

I eggplant

1 tablespoon salt

1 quart water

1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

pepper

Peel eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch slices. In a large bowl, combine the water and salt. Add the eggplant slices. Put a plate or other weight on the eggplant slices to keep them from floating. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Pour one-fourth of the tomato sauce in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Next put one-third of the eggplant slices in the dish.  Add another fourth of the tomato sauce, then add one-third of the cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Continue layering until all of the ingredients are used, ending with the cheese.

Cover dish and bake in oven for 35 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking until the eggplant is tender (about another 10-20 minutes). Remove from oven and serve.

Old-fashioned Sweet Cucumber Pickle Strips

pint canning jar filled with sweet cucumber pickle strips

There were lots of cucumbers in the refrigerator, and my husband said, “Make sweet pickles,” so I started digging through my 1919 cookbooks for a hundred-year-old sweet pickle recipe. I found one that looked somewhat promising, but it ended up being frustrated because it lacked key information.

Recipe for Sweet Cucumber Pickles
Source: Old Reliable Farm and Home Cookbook

When I read this recipe, I had more questions than answers: How many cucumbers do I need to make this recipe? How do I make a “weak brine”? What would be a good spice combination that would result in tasty pickles?

Not to be deterred, I forged ahead – and googled “weak brine.” I then pulled out some of my other cookbooks and looked at their pickle recipes to get a sense of how many cucumbers might be needed based upon the amount of sugar and vinegar listed in the recipe. I also considered various spice combinations listed in other recipes.

Here’s my stab at fleshing out and modernizing this recipe:

Sweet Cucumber Pickle Strips

  • Servings: approximately 5 pints
  • Difficulty: difficult
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15 pounds large firm cucumbers

3 quarts boiling water

4 cups vinegar

4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon mustard seed

Brine

1 cup salt

8 cups water

Peel cucumbers, then quarter cucumbers by cutting in half lengthwise and then cutting each half in half. Scrape the seeds out of the quarters to create strips.

Put the strips in a crock, or large glass bowl or jar. Cover with the brine.  (Make brine by stirring salt into the water.)  Make sure the strips are submerged in the brine by weighting them down with a plate or other weight. Leave in brine overnight (at least 8 hours), then drain using a colander. Place colander with cucumber strips in sink (if not already in the sink). Scald the cucumber strips by pouring boiling water over them.

In the meantime, make the pickling syrup. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed in a large kettle. Using medium heat bring to a boil. Add the cucumber strips, and bring back to a boil. Cook until the strips are translucent (about 3-5 minutes).

Pack the strips and syrup into hot pint jars; fill to 1/4 inch of top. Wipe jar rim and put lid on.

Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

The verdict: The pickle strips turned out okay. They were sweet and tangy, and had a texture similar to thinly-sliced bread and butter pickles. They were not as crisp as some other pickles. That said, the next time I make pickles, I’ll probably use a different recipe that provides more detailed instructions.